Creeping Flesh Reviews
Wonderful little Hammer style horror film from director/cinematographer Freddie Francis, starring the late great Peter Cushing as Emmanuel Hildern and Christopher Lee as his half brother, James Hildern. Cushing's role is more timid than usual, portraying a scientist that is hopeful and overly optimistic about his work, certain that with his discovery he can change the world as mankind knows it. Lee is in one of his most diabolical roles ever. James has always been jealous of his brother's scientific genius. He is also headmaster of the insane asylum in which Emmanuel's wife was placed after losing her mind. This has been kept a secret from Penelope, as she has been led to believe that her mother died years ago, in fear that any knowledge of her Mother's existence could spring her into chaos, as well. Before Emmanuel injects this serum into his daughter, he never once relishes on the fact that this predated fossilized skeleton he is using as his implement of betterness could be the root of a larger evil than current times are even aware of.
We get a lot of interesting subplots centered around the main story of The Creeping Flesh. For one, you get a five-man strong maniac that has escaped from James' lunatic asylum, hiding in the shadows and putting much physical harm on anything that gets in the way of what he wants. This ties in nicely later on in the film. And once James learns of Emmanuel's find in New Guinea, being the jealous brother he is, attempts to steal the skeleton, in the middle of a thunderstorm no less! You gotta love Lee in this gem.There's also a great and much unexpected ending that I just didn't see coming!
The flesh regeneration FX are done up nicely by Roy Ashton, who worked on quite a few Amicus and Hammer films also. When Cushing's character first learns that water brings back flesh, it grows on the skeleton's middle finger. And this is mainly executed with stop/play camera style action, though, still fairly effective (despite the fact that the finger has a very phallic reverence about it). Not a whole lot of bloodletting here, but the makeup FX with the Creeping Flesh itself is enough to keep a classic horror fan interested.
Freddie Francis was also no newbie to horror, having working on a couple of Hammer and Amicus films himself as a director (and later went on to direct an episode of HBO's Tales From the Crypt in '89). This explains a similar style to Terence Fisher (Horror of Dracula), imo. Cinematography is beautiful as well, by Norman Warwick (Amicus' Tales From the Crypt). There's lots of creative shots inside the asylum, as well as a few bits in the town, particularly in the pub where the escapee goes mad over a woman.
Hammer or Amicus fans should have no trouble loving this gem of a movie, nor should Cushing or Lee enthusiasts. The film has been remastered in high definition, presented in widescreen and dolby digital. It's the best way to see it. Special features are sadly limited, but the movie more than makes up for the lack of extras on the DVD.
"The Creeping Flesh" is a decent chiller that is a bit slow in getting started, but once it gets going, it's a riviting experience. It's got Peter Cushing giving one of his best performances as a mentally unstable scientist, Christopher Lee at his most effective as a monstrous villain hiding behind a veneer of respectablity, and the uniquely beautiful Lorna Heilbron as a gorgeous and completely deranged young woman.
Out of all the films that uses Victorian-style fantasy, horror, and pseudo-science, this is perhaps the film that captures the sexual repression and misogynism that was at the heart of so much of Victorian thought. And Cushing and Heilbron capture this mindset to a tee.
It may not be the best horror film ever made, but "The Creeping Flesh" definately captures the mood of "gothic horror" that I was shooting for back when I worked on the Ravenloft line. It's also a film that fans of both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee will be happy for seeking out.
The Creeping Flesh
Starring: Peter Cushing, Lorna Heilbron, Christopher Lee, and George Benson, and Hedger Wallace
Director: Freddie Francis